Resources assist healthcare and social service providers to help those who experience family violence

An online platform built with the assistance of the The Games Institute at the University of Waterloo has been launched to assist healthcare and social service providers to recognize and respond safely to family violence.

The website of pan-Canadian guidance and education resources is focused on three main types of family violence, including child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, and children’s exposure to intimate partner violence. The online resources are comprised of evidence-based learning modules, which include care pathways, scripts and how-to videos, along with interactive educational scenarios and a handbook.

The Violence Evidence Guidance Action (VEGA) project led by McMaster University has developed the family violence education resources in collaboration with 22 national organizations and with funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

To access VEGA resources, visit

“Family violence is a major public health problem with devastating consequences for children, women, families and communities,” said VEGA project lead Harriet MacMillan, distinguished university professor in the departments of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences and pediatrics at McMaster.

“The Public Health Agency of Canada’s ongoing investment in VEGA ensures that important efforts will continue in supporting healthcare and social service providers to recognize and respond safely to family violence.”

Studies show family violence impacts at least one in three families in Canada.

Steve Wilcox, Assistant Professor of Game Design and Development, welcomed the launch of the project.

"Family violence is a pressing social issue, one that presents unique challenges for healthcare providers who need to both recognize and respond safely to signs of family violence," Wilcox said.

"The VEGA team approached this challenge in a number of ways, including through a series of games developed in collaboration with The Games Institute. Through this collaboration we designed simulated interactions which allow healthcare providers to discover the signs of family violence for themselves and to explore various responses, the outcomes of which align with evidence and best practices. The result is a learner-centered, interactive approach to recognizing and responding safely to family violence."

The Public Health Agency of Canada is providing an additional $750,000 to McMaster for the Researching the Impact of Service provider Education (RISE) project that will see McMaster collaborate with the universities of Toronto, McGill and Calgary and work with eight professional associations to evaluate the use of VEGA materials within their provider and student membership across the country.

The eight professional associations involved in the newly-funded project include: The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Child Welfare League of Canada, and the Canadian Association of Social Workers.

Through its partnerships, McMaster aims to improve the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours of the thousands of providers involved in recognizing the signs of family violence and providing a safe and effective response to survivors.

“Our previous work has told us that providers need more evidence-informed training to be able to safely recognize and respond to family violence and it is important to them; the partnerships we have established with professional associations reiterates this message,” said Melissa Kimber, lead of the RISE project and an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster.

“We are delighted to be able to lead the implementation and evaluation of VEGA. We firmly believe that investing in Canadian providers is an investment in Canada’s children, youth, and families.”

For more information:

Veronica McGuire
Media Relations
McMaster University


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